Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed had hoped to avoid layoffs, and even add 100 police
officers this year, but on Wednesday Reed's staff told The Atlanta
Journal-Constitution that 67 airport workers would lose their jobs and 62
vacant positions would be abolished.
The mayor's staff also informed the City Council's finance executive committee
that employees in other city agencies will get laid off, possibly matching
the number of those at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport, but a
number hadn't been reached by late Wednesday.
Reed's staff released a four-page summary of actions related to his $578
million proposed budget to the committee, with more to come on Thursday,
said Peter Aman, the mayor's chief operating officer.
While most local governments have cut budgets, Reed, in his first year as
mayor, wants to spend an additional $37 million above Atlanta's current $541
million general fund budget. Some of that is predicated on two deals that
have not been completed.
Reed is attempting to sell City Hall East, which was used as a headquarters
for Atlanta's police, fire rescue, parks and recreation and cultural affairs
departments, to developers. His staff also is negotiating to lease the city
jail to Fulton County. The mayor said the deals will save the city about $25
million. Council members questioned the wisdom of including those
arrangements in the budget documents they received.
"I'm trying to understand how can you anticipate something that doesn't
exist?" Councilwoman Felicia Moore asked.
In response, Aman told Moore, "We're proposing that we're anticipating
[the approval of those deals]."
Seizing on public crime concerns, Reed campaigned for mayor last year with the
promise of hiring 750 police officers in his first term. He also proposed
re-opening about two dozen recreation facilities, now called the "centers
of hope." The mayor's budget calls for spending $13 million to staff
the centers and make public safety improvements.
Now taking a different stance, Reed has said he won't lay off police officers
or firefighters, a commitment he has not offered other departments. The
mayor still intends to change the pension-vesting period for city workers
from 10 years to 15, which he said will save the city $8 million and prevent
him from laying off more workers. However, union leaders said Reed can't
make changes to current employees' compensation and have threatened to sue
Atlanta's general work force, funded largely by property taxes, has declined
from 5,600 employees in 2001 to 4,155 currently. That doesn't include
airport employees or its Watershed Management department, which are funded
by separate accounts. Layoffs in 2002 and 2008 were responsible for the bulk
of the workforce reduction.
The city raised property taxes in 2002, rejected another increase in 2008 and
narrowly approved an increase last year. Reed and several council members
have said they don't want to raise taxes this year.